ST. MARYS – The third inning has been a magic one for Wilcox at the Region 8 tournament.
Wilcox scored five runs in the third inning for the third consecutive game as Wilcox went to 3-0 on the tournament with a 14-6 win over Millcreek Monday night at Berwind Park in St. Marys.
"It was a nice start, that big inning again," Wilcox coach Jeff Peterson said. "I think we hit the third every time. It's usually the second time around in the lineup we see it and we're on it. The kids are really adjusting well and picking it up a notch."
Millcreek led 1-0 entering the bottom of the third but Wilcox put together a rally quickly. Frank Kocjancic led off the third by being hit by a pitch. Cole Peterson singled and Jesse Reynolds would bunt down the third base line for an infield hit to load the bases. Mitchell Holmberg hit a sacrifice fly to score Kocjancic and tie the game. Josh Mitchell continued his torrid pace at the plate with a single to right field, plating Peterson. Wilcox catcher Ben MacDonald successfully executed the squeeze play as Reynolds dashed toward the plate and scored for a 3-1 Wilcox lead.
Quinn Luhr reached on an error and Cameron Grumley walked. Kocjancic batted for the second time in the inning and reached base again on a single which scored Joe Holmberg for a 5-1 Wilcox lead after the third inning.
Wilcox added a pair of runs in the fifth inning as the team walked four times in the frame. Luhr reached with a 1-out single and CJ Hersbritt walked. Millcreek starter Ryan Kaverman was replaced by Zachary Borsa after the Herbstritt walk but Wilcox would load the bases on a Kocjancic walk. Luhr was out at the plate on a suicide squeeze play, Peterson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Reynolds walked with the bases juiced which allowed Herbstritt to trot home. Mitchell Holmberg would mirror Reynolds as he walked to score Kocjancic and build the Wilcox lead to 7-1.
Millcreek would cut into the margin in the seventh with a 4-run outburst. After a leadoff walk, Matthew Hansen would single up the middle and Matthew Sardini would answer with a run-scoring single to make the score 7-2. Alexander Margraf singled home both Hansen and Sardini to cut Wilcox's lead to three. After a walk from Brian Bohman, Luke Nientimp hit a sacrifice bunt. Riley Warren grounded out to Mitchell on the mound. Margraf scored from third on the play as Millcreek was within two at 7-5.
Wilcox would match the 4-spot by Millcreek with one of its own in the home half of the seventh. Peterson was hit by a pitch for the second time to lead off the seventh. Reynolds attempted a bunt to move Peterson over but reached on a Millcreek error. Mitchell Holmberg then kept the smallball theme going with a bunt single of his own to bring Mitchell to the plate with the bases loaded.
"We play our game and it works," coach Peterson said. You play it right and do it well, you can't stop it. We're playing well, we'll take it any way we can get it. It worked out well, we got a lot of runs off it. It caused a lot of problems for them."
Mitchell would pad his RBI total with a 2-run single to right center field which would score Peterson and Reynolds and push Wilcox ahead 9-5. After a MacDonald sacrifice bunt, Joe Holmberg walked. Quinn Luhr would bunt his way onto first as Mitchell Holmberg would score on the infield hit for a 10-5 lead. Luhr was 2 for 4 with two RBI and a walk.
Herbstritt grounded out to third which scored Mitchell for an 11-5 lead.
Millcreek would add a run in the eighth as Sardini scored Borsa. Millcreek had the bases loaded in the eighth but Mitchell struck out Nientimp to end the inning and keep the game from getting closer.
Wilcox would push things out of reach in the bottom of the eighth with a trio of runs. Jesse Reynolds singled and went to second on a Millcreek error. Mitchell Holmberg then singled and Mitchell walked to load the bases. MacDonald walked to score Reynolds and Joe Holmberg hit into a fielder's choice which would allow Mitchell Holmberg to cross the plate. A Luhr single brought Mitchell around for another Wilcox run.
Peterson started the game for Wilcox and threw 6-plus innings. He scattered seven hits and had three runs charged to his ledger with seven strikeouts and two walks as well. Mitchell finished the game with three innings pitched. He walked two and struck out four as he allowed three runs.
Wilcox finished with 14 hits from eight different players. Reynolds had three hits while Mitchell Holmberg, Mitchell, Joe Holmberg all had two hits. Reynolds and Mitchell each tallied three runs while Peterson, Kocjancic and Mitchell Holmberg each crossed the plate twice. In addition to the 14 hits, Wilcox walked 11 times off of Millcreek pitching.
"We hit the ball, we just keep plugging," coach Peterson said. "There's no quit in this team. There's some clutch performances from Cole and Josh again. Cole threw really well and Josh came in to pick up the end for us. They did a good job. We battled back to get the lead again and get a cushion for them."
Wilcox will play French Creek Valley at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a rematch of the opening game of the tournament in which Wilcox won 11-3 on Saturday morning. A French Creek Valley loss will eliminate them from the tournament while Wilcox has at least two more games no matter what Tuesday's result is.
"Hats off, they're playing as a team," coach Peterson said. "We got a couple kids that didn't get into the game, I feel bad about it but we had to play with our best defensive team right now to get that game. They'll get their chances in the next game but that game there, we had to have."
Coach Peterson said with no threat of elimination Tuesday, he is looking to throw different pitchers against French Creek Valley.
"Now we go into the next game and coast a little bit, throw some other guys and whatever happens, happens, but no matter what we're in the finals," coach Peterson said. "We'll save our other guns and build it back up and see what we got in the finals."
Millcreek is slated to play Albion at 4 p.m. this afternoon. The loser of that game is eliminated from the tournament.